The Glorious Corner: Debbie Gibson, Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam and More

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G.H. Harding

AN ELECTRIC 30 — Last Friday was 30 years since Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youthalbum was released. That was her follow up to her multi gold debut album Out Of The Blue, which spawned the unforgettable hit “Only in My Dreams.” 

“Electric Youth” album cover

Debbie was unquestionably the Britney Spears of her time; she had the first-ever perfume endorsement via Revlon – called Electric Youth. That deal set the stage for every endorsement since … from The Rolling Stone then and Taylor Swift now included. Truth be told, these days, if you don’t have a heavy endorsement deal going, you’re going to be left in the dark.

David Salidor with Debbie Gibson

PR-man David Salidor handled the media for Gibson and we thought who better than him to reflect on Electric Youth 30 years later: “Her manager at the time brought me in, almost a year before “Only in My Dreams” even came out and that afforded us the time to create the perfect campaign. Most people don’t realize that ‘Only in My Dreams’ was released twice; first for the club culture at the time and then for pop radio and the PR-campaign fit perfectly. Debbie was, and is, marvelously talented and her vision was the one thing that I wanted the media to see. I remember having Entertainment Tonight interview her, with Donald Berman producing the segment, at her house in Long Island, with her in her studio in the garage. It was a terrific piece and really set in motion everything else. We just came off the Run-DMC campaign (where we got them on the cover of Rolling Stone), so the momentum was there and Debbie was the real deal. My thoughts today: I’m still in touch with her and she’s ready to do her own Private Dancer album. Many of the performers of that time didn’t have anything beyond one hit … Debbie did and still does. I know that album will come out and I’d love to be part of it. I also have to recall the tremendous support of Doug Morris who ran Atlantic Records at the time and Larry Yasgur. It was a team effort and should the team, be put back together? Most definitely.”

Run-DMC Rolling Stone cover

RIKLIS PASSES — Meshulam Riklis, a billionaire businessman best known as the husband of actress Pia Zadora and the fulcrum of a Golden Globes scandal in the 1980’s, has died in a Tel Aviv hospital, according to his family. He was 95.

Riklis was accused of lavishly wooing members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in advance of the 1982 Golden Globes, sponsoring a junket two months before the event to his Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and a major press luncheon and screening at his Beverly Hills mansion.

Meshulam Riklis and Pia Zadora 

Zadora subsequently won a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture in 1982 for her role in Butterfly, which Riklis co-produced. The movie had not yet opened in the U.S. at the time.

Riklis also raised eyebrows in 1988 when he and Zadora bought the Pickfair mansion from then-L.A. Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and then went wild with renovations, resulting in a drastically altered building and much consternation among its neighbors.

Born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1923, Riklis moved to the U.S. in 1947 with his first wife, Judith Stern. He studied mathematics at Ohio State University, later earning a master’s degree in finance from the school.

He became a stock analyst and soon developed a way to use high-yield bonds and leveraged buyouts to take control of firms, shuffling assets into and out of them.

An entrepreneur by heart, Riklis started Carnival Cruise Lines in the 1970’s and he later had stakes in Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, Faberge, RKO-Stanley Warner Theatres and Samsonite. He became one of Forbes’ wealthiest Americans and claimed billionaire status by the mid-80’s.

He also financed G.L.O.W.: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a syndicated program featuring female pro wrestlers. It became the inspiration for the Netflix fictionalized scripted series GLOW.

I met Riklis several times during the 80’s and the whole Butterfly imbroglio. Zadora, marginally talented, never worked again and became something of an industry joke.

This was way before Harvey Weinstein, but you can be sure he took more than a little notice of Riklis’ grasp.

Riklis hit a rough patch financially in the 1990’s, with several of his businesses going bankrupt. One of the best-known was McCrory Corp., a chain of five-and-dime stores that was founded in 1882 and went bust in 1992 under Riklis. He was accused of gutting the firm and shifting away its wealth before terminating it.

Riklis was 49 when he met 19-year-old Zadora in 1973, sneaking backstage to meet her after a show in a touring production of the musical Applause. The May-December marriage was a hot topic in the tabloids. They married in 1977 and divorced in 1993.

In 2010, Riklis married Israeli dancer and socialite Tali Sinai, an actress from the first season of Meusharot, the Israeli version of The Real Housewives. Riklis appeared with her on the show.

Survivors include Sinai; two children from his first marriage, Marcia and Ira; and two children from his marriage to Zadora, Kady and Kristofer. Another daughter, Mona Ackerman, died in 2012.

SHORT TAKES — Robert Miller gets interviewed today by Times Square Chronicles’ Magda Katz about his new album with his band Project Grand Slam, entitled Greetings From Serbia … At the gym Saturday when David Bowie’s “Putting out Fire” (from 1982’s Cat People) came on. What a terrific song; produced by the master Giorgio Moroder. If you’ve never seen this movie-its utterly brilliant, with Nastassia Kinski and Malcolm McDowell. Check out Bowie doing 
“Putting Out Fire”-  … David Duchovny was a guest on Q1043’s Jim Kerr show last week, promoting his new album High Or High Water. I was prepared to pass on it, but it was tremendous. His band didn’t have a name, but here’s my suggestion: X Men …We loved Micky Dolenz as Guest DJ on Tom Petty Radio last week on SiriusXM. His stories, his memories … brilliant … Speaking of Petty, we saw on WLIW a concert recorded by in 2004. Loved it. The Heartbreakers just sublime. What a loss … This new Michael Jackson documentary is 4 hour long? Yes. Read colleague-Roger Friedman’s take on this. I agree 200% – … Not to get too schmaltzy, but did you ever hear “Windmills Of My Mind?” Beautiful song … from The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968 – the original with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway – was written by Michel Legrand, who passed this weekend at 86. They don’t make ’em like that anymore. RIP Michel.

Micky Dolenz with Tom Petty

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Jim Kerr; Donna Quinter; Frank’s Steaks; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Mike McCann; Mark Bego; Silvio Tancredi; Joe Beck; Steve Kahn; Mahershala Ali; Stan Lee; and, CFS.

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